Feel free to either watch the review below or read it, the old-fashioned way. I like to cater to all tastes.
For those who don’t know, Fallout 4 is an action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by nuclear war. It has a great intro, in which you start in a suburban utopia, full to bursting with retro-futuristic technology. I really loved this glimpse into the bright and colourful pre-nuclear version of Fallout’s world. I think it works great as a contrast with the world our protagonist wakes up in, two hundred years later, which ravaged by nuclear fallout is comparatively barren and muted. As the title of the game hint at, things soon take a turn for the worst in our sleepy little suburb as the world is devastated by a nuclear war.
In the intro you get to shape your own character. You can choose between male or female, but whichever gender you chose, the back story is the same. They are assigned a place in Vault 111 by a Vault Tec representative, and it is during this early conversation that the game introduces you to the dialogue wheel. Unfortunately, it also introduces you to the game’s clever illusion of making it appear you have a choice when you blatantly don’t, as while no is presented as a choice, it doesn’t actually mean no, because whether you choose yes or no the game still proceeds as if you have answered yes, making me wonder why the choice is even there. This happens a few time throughout the game and I find it really quite frustrating. Either give the player a choice or don’t. To dangle it in front of the players’ face and then snatch it back again when they don’t give the answer that the game’s storyline demands, is pointless at best and annoying at worst. Anyway, moving on.
By the end of the intro your character ends up more than two hundred years in the future, in the destroyed remnants of his/her home town. I really love the game’s run down, half-ruinous environments of the post-nuclear war world. Despite the graphical limitations, it looks hauntingly beautiful in some places. I particularly like the half collapsed motorways towering over the skyline like desolate monoliths. Unfortunately, that’s over shadowed by some dodgy character models which seem to range from acceptable to uncanny valley. Graphically wise, the game seems to fluctuate. The environments are generally good but the textures do sometimes look a little low resolution, which leaves you with the feeling that while Fallout 4 is clearly trying, it isn’t quite living up to the graphical potential current generation consoles provide. However, once you leave the confines of the towns and buildings and take a jaunt in the wilds, you’ll finally see the graphics show their true value; and for me, it’s out of town where the majority of the game’s beauty lies.
Now while the game has a great intro, it unfortunately gets very slow once it’s over and you find yourself in the game proper. Once you’ve cleared the brief battle in the museum and met up with Preston, the next main quest you’re given is considerably out of your level range, forcing you to take on a number of side quests. Unfortunately, pretty much all of the side quests seem to follow the exact same formula of: go to (insert name here), destroy all enemies (insert enemy group here), report back to quest giver (insert quest giver name here). With the exception of the settlement building quests which I’ll discuss later, pretty much all the side quests seem to involve little more than marching into an area and emptying it of enemies, which is fine once or twice but it has a tendency to get a little tiring after the fifth or sixth time. This slows the game down and, for me, turned it into hours of quests grinding rather than the enjoyable experience I was hoping for.
The game does pick up again once you’ve levelled up enough to continue with the main quest line. However, in my case, that was after eight hours of grinding side quests, which is a lot of time to spend just to earn the privilege of continuing the actual game. I really feel they shouldn’t have put that break in so early in the game: the storyline had barely got started and I certainly wasn’t at the point where I felt immersed enough in the game’s world and setting to wade through side content up to my waist, with the next main quest barely a speck on the horizon.
The settlement building element is an area where I think Fallout 4 really excels. You start with your old home Sanctuary Hills, which you’re given the freedom to rebuild more or less as you see fit. Some collapsed houses can be removed leaving vacant plots, others in better repair you’re stuck with. As the game progresses and you free more world areas, you can rebuild them too; each of them will have an established population whose needs will have to be met, such as beds, water, food and defence. The better you do, the more your settlements will expand and the happier those living within them will be, which will give you access to new shops and vendors. I very much enjoy building generators and connecting up properties, restoring power to the house’s lighting, TVs and other modern perks that seem to have been left for two centuries to gather dust.
The only downside is that this element of the game is severely lacking in tutorials. There are quests such as “craft and place five beds” or “build something with power”, but it lacks not only the details of what these quests actually entail (I’ve built generators, switches, lights connected them within buildings and still I’m being told to build something with power), but also how to do it as the settlement crafting system isn’t that intuitively designed, especially when it comes to electrics. Nevertheless, once I’d figured it out I did have plenty of fun running cables and switches around the buildings and returning mod cons to the world of Fallout 4, so it is worth grappling with.
Like Skyrim you can loot pretty much anything not nailed down in the game. However, whereas in Skyrim it was mostly just useless junk to clutter up you inventory or fill the chests in your house, in Fallout 4 you can break those items down into basic materials such as metal, wood, copper etc., which you can then use to further expand and enhance your settlements. You can also trade any extra weapons and armour you pick up with the residents of your settlements to arm them against attack, as raiders will attack your settlements, so defence is worth bearing in mind if you don’t want to come back to a looted settlement and a pile of corpses. It’s not likely to be that drastic, but always prepare for the worst right? You can set up perimeter fences, automated gun turrets, defence towers and plenty more obstacles to get in the way of would-be invaders.
The crafting system is vast, from furniture, weapons and armour to food and medicine. It’s linked in some respect to the skills available in the Vault Tec abilities grid as anything above the basic crafting tier in most areas, will require an activated ability, which in turn will require a certain number of points in its corresponding stat. The specialisations are quite basic in this game and you can’t really go wrong wherever you choose to put your points, unless you pump all your points into one stat, which can make the character unbalanced. Ability wise, they are capped at 10, but you can use your skill points, granted each time you level up, to enhance them. So, if you later regret not having put more points in, say, strength, you can still do so. I’ve heard complaints that the build specialisation system in this game has been overly simplified, but I personally quite like the S.P.E.C.I.A.L and Vault Tec Perks system, and having the freedom of being able to either use my level up points to enhance my stats or to activate an ability. I think it works quite well, especially with the grounding the system has in the storyline and its connection with Vault Tec.
Throughout the game you will also make friends and alliances. These result in the gaining of companions, who you can ask to tag along with you. Depending on the ally, they can provide different support and you may want to keep your play style in mind when you chose who to bring along because while some are great in a fire fight or for keeping mobs off you in combat, if you prefer the sneaking route then a lot of the AI companions seem to struggle to keep a low profile. Dogmeat and my new BFF Nick Valentine seem to be the only exceptions to that rule, as both will stealth when you stealth and Nick is extremely handy for accessing terminals and picking locks, if you missed those talents off your build. If you need a tank, however, then Nick’s not your man, you’re better off going for the Brotherhood of Steel’s meathead in power armour. Just don’t expect any meaningful conversations.
The scale of the game without a doubt is impressive. There’s plenty of map to explore and no shortage of quests to complete and when you add in the settlement building and crafting system then this game will certainly provide excellent value for money, assuming the constant stream of ‘go there and kill whatever’ quests doesn’t get too grindy for you. When put up against recent releases such as Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid 5, I just feel that while content-wise it does stand up, there is just something missing in Fallout 4 which for me detracts from the immersion of the game. However, unlike Ubisoft with Assassins Creed Syndicate, I can see that Bethesda has really pushed the boat out with this game. The scale of the game is really impressive and they’ve shown real innovation and progression which sets it apart from the rest of the series. This isn’t just a Fallout game. It is Fallout 4, and in an industry where AAA games developers are growing increasingly reluctant to take risks and to try new directions with their established franchises, I view the unique quality of the game as no small achievement.
Overall, this is a game which has as many good points as it does have bad, but without a shadow of a doubt in terms of content, it’s definitely value for money. It’s a well-designed game in many ways, and you can see how much hard work has gone into it, but, for me, the slow start and the weakness of the game’s narrative lets it down. Fallout 4 is without a doubt a good game, but it could so easily have been exceptional.
Open world with a massive map and a lots of content.
The settlement building is great fun and satisfyingly customisable.
You can pick up just about every item you come across in the game and it’s useful when you get it back home.
The environments are really well designed with great atmosphere and character.
Huge crafting system.
Weak storyline, most of the characters in the game feel 2 dimensional, my best buddy Nick excluded, and the main protagonist really lacks personality.
Very little variation between quests, and you’re frequently forced into doing side quests instead of being free to just devote yourself to the main quest line.
Lack of tutorials, which is especially noticeable when building settlements.
Very slow to build up and get started. You may find that the main storyline feels watered down when compared with the likes of Witcher 3 and MGS5.
The dialogue options you’re given on screen to choose from aren’t always a good indication of what your character will actually say when you select them. Particularly, if you have the gall to select “no”. I mean how dare you! Clearly, we’re just going to ignore that input and hope you select more wisely next time.